Johnny Mowlem talks us round Silverstone

A lap of Silverstone GP circuit aboard a Porsche GT3R

Johnny Mowlem talks us round Silverstone

You are flat across the start line, which, now they have moved the starting grid further up towards Copse Corner, is well after the finish line. You just reach 150mph before braking and shifting down to fourth gear. Copse is almost back to being as fast as it used to be, but it is still deceptive how much speed you can carry through it. Also, if you overdo it, you get sucked nicely off into the gravel on the exit! (Shunt factor is high!). You snatch fifth just on the exit and head off towards the left and right at Maggots.

If your car is set up well you can almost go flat into and through Maggots, even in a GT car with relatively low downforce. However, you're then fighting to stop the car from spinning, especially in a Porsche, because you need to drag the car back to the right in order to enter the first left of Becketts on some semblance of a correct racing line. You then shift down to third and try and get a very clean run out onto the long Hangar Straight. Because the Maggots and Becketts complex involves left-handers immediately followed by right-handers, twice (!), the lines through it vary enormously. Some work, some don't, but the secret is to try and do it the same every lap, without overworking your rear tyres because opposite lock and these corners tend to be synonymous.

Hangar Straight can feel very long indeed, especially if you have some sod tucked into your slipstream. It is possible to defend the inside quite easily into Stowe corner, but because Stowe is so open on the entry, this doesn't always work, as Coulthard proved by overtaking Barrichello exactly like that at the grand prix a few weeks ago. However, you have to be careful as Stowe corner tightens up quite a bit on the exit, so if you go in too fast it will catch you out. To cap it all you are braking down from about 160mph to about 80mph at the apex.

You accelerate back up to 120mph before braking hard for the worst part of the circuit, the tight left-hander at Vale, which leads straight into the long right-hander at Club which seems to take forever to open up, and you have to be patient on the throttle. But it is a great feeling when you get it right, and allows you to get back up to 145mph before again braking hard for the new(ish) Abbey Chicane. I like this chicane as you can really attack it and carry a lot of speed through it, but it can be easy to outbrake yourself there, as Allan McNish found out in the Porsche Supercup race in 1996!

You exit Abbey Chicane on the kerb and head for the right hander at Bridge. In a single seater, Bridge is bit of a non even in comparison because you don't go through the old Abbey any more. But in a GT car it is still like it used to be in a Formula 3 car before the Chicane was built, i.e. hairy!

This is where you discover whether you need a wheelbarrow or a thimble to carry your privates in! Unfortunately, being brave at Bridge does little to reward in terms of lap time, even if you manage to go through it at about 110mph, because you have a tiny straight on the exit along which you drag the car back to the right of the circuit, before braking hard and down to third for Priory. As opposed to Stowe, it is easy to defend and you won't even lose too much time.

After Priory, which is quicker than it appears, you drift out to the right before another heavy brake for the second left-hander which is Brooklands. This corner rivals Vale for the slowest part of the track, 50mph, and is also a bit boring, although technically you need to drive through it cleanly as you can lose a lot of time through it. The same applies to the next long hairpin-like right-hander Luffield.

Again, there are a lot of different lines seen through this corner, but I favour going in early and hugging the kerb all the way up to the apex. It's critical to get a good exit as you carry that speed all the way through the right kink at Woodcote (in the wet this flat out kink turns into a difficult corner, which can be a bit disconcerting!).

You then go across the finish line just after the exit of Woodcote, and head off down to Copse for another lap.

Although nothing like it used to be, Silverstone Grand Prix circuit is still a fast circuit, but with enough slow corners to keep it technical as well. I enjoy driving it, partly because the track is so smooth, but mostly because Maggots and Becketts is a great series of corners, in my opinion up there with Blanchimont at Spa or Parabolica at Monza. (Still doesn't beat Eau Rouge though!).

So if in doubt, go and watch there or exiting Bridge for some real action. Hopefully see you on May 13.

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